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Exotic 'Glueball' Particle Holds Nuclear Particles Together with Its Force

First Posted: Oct 19, 2015 08:39 AM EDT

Scientists may have discovered a long-sought-after "glueball" particle, created entirely of gluons. These "sticky" particles actually keep nuclear particles together.

For decades, researchers have been looking for so-called "glueballs." These particles are unstable and can only be detected indirectly by their decay. This decay process, though, is not yet fully understood. Now, it seems as if these particles have finally been found.

In order to find glueballs, the researchers employed a new theoretical approach to calculate glueball decay.

Protons and neutrons consist of smaller elementary particles called quarks. These quarks are bound together by a strong nuclear force, and this force is mediated by a special kind of force particle, called a gluon.

Gluons are, essentially, a more complicated version of the photon. While photons are responsible for   the forces of electromagnetism, eight different kinds of gluons play a role for the strong nuclear force. However, gluons themselves are also subject to their own force while photons are not.

Simplified model calculations have shown that there are two realistic candidates for glueballs: the mesons called f0(1500) and f0(1710). The latter has a higher mass, but when it decays it produces many heavy quarks, or so-called strange quarks.

"Our calculations show that it is indeed possible for glueballs to decay predominantly into strange quarks," said Anton Rebhan, one of the researchers, in a news release.

In fact, the calculated decay pattern into two lighter particles in this study agrees extremely well with the decay pattern measured for f0(1710). This could indicate that this particle is a good candidate for gluons.

With that said, more research is needed, and new experiments at the Large Hadron Collider will be able to confirm these findings.

The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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